By Joe Stein
As we continue our series of articles focusing on the questions most Job Seekers will face during the interview process, we review the challenge of “what is your salary requirement?”
This is the question that will freeze many Job Seekers right in their tracks. Why? It is probably because there is usually no good answer for the Job Seeker. Sometimes the question isn’t even asked by a person, but rather an online job application. So, what should a person do? Let’s examine how a Job Seeker should navigate around this dilemma.
Why Is It Asked?
· Provides a “Green/Yellow/Red” – Recruiters and Hiring Managers are very busy people so having an idea regarding your salary requirement gives them some guidance on who to focus their attention on.
· Gives the Employer a Competitive Advantage – It is generally regarded that the person who names a price first will lose the negotiation. Knowing your salary history and/or salary requirement may provide the prospective employer with an advantage.
· Salary is Budgeted – A company has a finite labor budget in which to operate under. They do not want to “fall in love” with a candidate only to find out that they cannot fit this person within their budget.
How Should It Be Answered?
· Emphasize the Many Factors – Stress the many variables that go into this answer and how more information could impact your response. These variables include the details regarding job responsibilities, fringe benefits, and incentive opportunities.
· Determine Your Leverage – The reality is if you are in demand or being recruited for the position, you may state your salary requirements and still feel comfortable during negotiations. This is also true if you are currently gainfully employed, as you will be in a much better position to “walk away” if necessary.
· Do Your Research – Don’t just rely on what you are making today or what you have made in the past. Instead, research the market for your position in the WNY region. There are websites that focus solely on providing salary data information for Job Seekers. Determine the range and make sure you are placed smartly in that range.
· Decide If You Need the Filter – For Job Seekers who are currently employed, they may actually desire the salary requirement filter. This will allow you to focus only on positions in which the prospective employer is willing and able to meet your salary desires.
· Stay In the Race – If you feel the question needs to be answered and you are interested in the position, then consider an answer that will serve this purpose. Provide a number that would be in your range and not eliminate you from consideration for the position. The reality is if you provide a number below your range, than this isn’t a position you can “afford” to accept anyways. Also, a number too low and the prospective employer may question your qualifications or confidence in doing the job. You may always have the opportunity to seek additional dollars later in the process if the company appears very interested and you have been provided with more information that justifies your change in desired dollars.
· Truthfully – If you do not want to answer the question, then inform the prospective employer of that. Do not provide an inflated previous salary as that opens you to be caught in a fib which will hurt your credibility and your odds of getting the job.
· Speak In Ranges – Instead of giving a very specific number, consider providing a range in which you would have an interest. A company may try to pin you down, but I have found that generally a range will suffice. Try to provide a pretty wide range which will give you negotiation room.
· Consider Flattery – You may try to consider the flattery route and express that this organization has a wonderful reputation and you are sure that they will provide a fair and equitable offer.
· Stress Negotiation –When providing an answer, stress that the requirements are flexible and that you expect there to be some negotiation once more is learned about each other.
· Explain Your Salary History – Be prepared, if necessary, to provide details regarding your salary history. If the number is lower than market, explain how you wanted to gain a specific experience or work on a desired project so you stayed at this lower salary. If you were paid above market, then be prepared to provide information such as the travel involved that caused your salary to be higher than market.
What Not To Do:
· Get Sarcastic – I have actually read some “experts” state that it is none of the prospective employers business so don’t answer them or give them a bizarre answer such as “more than a $1”. Your role is to find a new position, not to give a message or to make a statement.
· Enter Unprepared – Don’t give the answer, “I don’t know”. There are lots of answers you can provide, but “I don’t know” is not one of them. It will cause you to come across as unprepared or unmotivated.
· Ignore the Request – This is a sure-fire way to be placed in the discard bin. If you are asked to apply with salary information, then failure to do so will most like result in your resume not being reviewed and discarded. If it is reviewed, you will be most likely tagged as someone who cannot follow directions. When required to submit, place the salary information towards the bottom of your Cover Letter.
· Volunteer – Do not volunteer your salary information if it has not been requested. Even if you wish to place a filter for employers to assist in your job search, it may cause a Hiring Manager to think you are placing too much emphasis on compensation.
The dreaded salary discussion can be very stress-inducing for a Job Seeker. It can be addressed, however, by the savvy Job Seeker in a way that will satisfy your prospective employer and maintain some negotiation leverage for you. Review again the tips above and determine what combination of strategies works best for you.
As always, best of luck in your job search.